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date: 31 October 2020

Moïse et Pharaon [Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la Mer Rouge (‘Moses and Pharaoh, or The Crossing of the Red Sea’)locked

  • Richard Osborne

Extract

[Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la Mer Rouge (‘Moses and Pharaoh, or The Crossing of the Red Sea’)

Opéra in four acts by Gioachino Rossini , derived from his Mosè in Egitto (1818–19), to a new libretto by Luigi Balocchi and (Victor-Joseph-)Etienne de Jouy ; Paris, Opéra, 26 March 1827.

For the Paris version of his Moses opera, Rossini elaborated and reordered the musical and dramatic structures of Mosè in Egitto. In conformity with French taste of the time and the added resources of the Paris Opéra, the work is both grander and more spectacular than the original, at some cost to its essential freshness and cogency. Only three numbers are entirely new: the scène et quatuor ‘Dieu de la paix’ in Act 1, Anaï’s scène et air ‘Quelle horrible destinée’ in Act 4 and the concluding and rarely performed cantique ‘Chantons, bénissons le Seigneur’. The overture, introduction and Act 3 ballet all draw on material from Rossini’s Armida (1817), though the ballet is substantially new. Reorderings include the transference of the famous ‘Scene of the Shadows’ from the start of the work to the opening of Act 2 and the dismembering of the original’s important Act 2 finale. The death of Pharaoh’s son is postponed and Elcia’s ‘Porgi la destra amata’ is turned into an appeal by Pharaoh’s wife to their lovelorn son. The Paris libretto also renames several leading characters: Pharaoh’s son, Osiride, becomes Aménophis (tenor), Pharaoh’s wife, Amaltea, becomes Sinaïde (soprano) and the young Hebrew girl Elcia becomes Anaï (soprano), daughter of Marie (mezzo-soprano), Moses’s sister. Osiride (bass) is the Egyptian High Priest, originally Mambre (not to be confused with Prince Osiride in ...

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